Live/Dead

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Live/Dead
A painting of a woman floating above a casket holding a banner reading "DEAD" behind a background with the word "LIVE"
Live album by Grateful Dead
Released November 10, 1969
Recorded February 26 – March 2, 1969
Genre Psychedelic rock, jam rock
Length 75:07
Label Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Producer Grateful Dead
Bob Matthews
Betty Cantor
Grateful Dead chronology
Aoxomoxoa
(1969)Aoxomoxoa1969
Live/Dead
(1969)
Workingman's Dead
(1970)Workingman's Dead1970
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars [1]
Rolling Stone (favourable) [2]
Robert Christgau A+[3]

Live/Dead is the first official live album released by the San Rafael-based band Grateful Dead. Recorded over a series of concerts in early 1969 and released later the same year, it was the first live rock album to use 16-track recording.

At the time of its release, Robert Christgau wrote that side two of the double album "contains the finest rock improvisation ever recorded." A landmark live album, that captured the Grateful Dead's improvisations at their best, AllMusic would write that "Few recordings have ever represented the essence of an artist in performance as faithfully as Live/Dead". Drummer Bill Kreutzmann comments "It was our first live release and it remains one of our best-loved albums. Its appeal was that it took great 'you-had-to-be-there' live versions of songs like 'Dark Star' and 'The Eleven' and put them right in people’s living rooms."[4] In 2003, the album was ranked number 244 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[5]

In 2005 the tracks "Dark Star", "St. Stephen", "Death Don't Have No Mercy", "Feedback" and "We Bid You Goodnight" were released, in their original sequence and with a new mix, on the respective February 27, 1969 and March 2, 1969 discs of the Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings box set (the first 1:34 of "Dark Star" can be found on the previous track, "Mountains of the Moon"). "Feedback" and "We Bid You Goodnight" were also released on the triple disc, highlights release Fillmore West 1969.

It is currently distributed via multiple online streaming platforms[6], including Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Deezer.

Recording[edit]

To assuage debt accrued with their record label from their recent album Aoxomoxoa, as well as fulfill their record contract, the band decided to record a live album. They were also interested in releasing an album more representative of their live performances and actual musicianship, as opposed to the in-studio experimentation of previous albums. Band soundman, Owsley "Bear" Stanley, asked electronics designer Ron Wickersham to invent a microphone splitter that fed both into the PA and the record inputs, with no loss in quality.[7] The songs were recorded with an Ampex 16-track machine.[8]

Kreutzmann later explained, "We got our hands on the latest in recording technology — a sixteen-track recorder (which, of course, is antiquated these days) — and we hauled it up the steps of the Avalon, and later the Fillmore West, and we became the first band ever to make a live sixteen-track recording. We weren’t trying to make history; we were just trying to record a live album. ... Studio versions could never do those songs justice, but advances in live recording (some of which were at our own hands) meant that we could bring the live Dead experience to vinyl".[4]

"We're not performers, strictly speaking, and we can't manufacture intensity in a recording studio ... we're musicians more than anything else"
- Jerry Garcia[9]

Unlike in later years, in early 1969 the contents of the Dead's set lists varied little. They improvised the medley of "Dark Star"/"St. Stephen"/"The Eleven" several times a week, which enabled them to explore widely within the songs' simple frameworks. The "Dark Star>St. Stephen" pairing was taken from the February 27, 1969 show at the Fillmore West; "The Eleven" and "Turn On Your Love Light" were from the January 26, 1969 show at the Avalon Ballroom; "Death Don't Have No Mercy," "Feedback," and "And We Bid You Goodnight" were recorded March 2, 1969, at the Fillmore West.

Two songs had seen previous release. "St. Stephen" had appeared in a studio version on Aoxomoxoa and "Dark Star" as a single. "The Eleven" was named for its unusual, complex time signature (11
8
time).

Cover art & release[edit]

The title has a double meaning. It refers both to the band (the "Dead") playing live, and is an oxymoron, contrasting the two words in apparent contradiction. The artwork, created by Robert Donovan Thomas (aka Bob Thomas), also illustrated this juxtaposition. The word "Live" is seen on the front cover, and the word "Dead" fills the back cover of the gatefold. The top part of the word "Dead" on the back cover is a perceptual text ambigram which, when partially covered, spells "acid".

The original Warner Bros. LP [#2WS 1830] included an 8.5" X 11" bi-fold insert with Celtic symbols and lyrics for "Saint Stephen", "The Eleven", and "Dark Star". The tracks are presented as one continuous concert. As such, vinyl copies are pressed with automatic sequencing, for stacking on a record changer (Record One containing Sides 1/4 and Record Two containing sides 2/3). CD versions present the track segues without interruption.

The album was a financial success for the band in the eyes of their label, Warner Bros. Keyboardist Tom Constanten commented that "Warner Bros. had pointed out that they had sunk $100,000-plus into Aoxomoxoa ... so someone had the idea that if we sent them a double live album, three discs for the price of one wouldn't be such a bad deal.".[8] It was the final album with Constanten, who last performed with the band in January, 1970.

A six-and-a-half-minute edit of "Turn On Your Lovelight" was issued first on the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders album The Big Ball in 1970, and later on Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead. A two-and-a-half minute edit of "Dark Star" was released on the soundtrack album for Zabriskie Point, an Antonioni film for which Garcia created additional music. The album's version of "St. Stephen" appears on the 1977 Grateful Dead compilation What a Long Strange Trip It's Been, but fades out during the final verse.

Live/Dead was remixed and expanded with hidden bonus tracks as part of the 2001 box set The Golden Road (1965–1973). The remix differs from the original in stereo imaging and reverb, and has a longer intro on "Dark Star". This version was released separately in 2003.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Dark Star" (Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Robert Hunter, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and Bob Weir) 23:18[a]
Side two
No. Title Length
2. "St. Stephen" (Garcia, Hunter, and Lesh) 6:31[a]
3. "The Eleven" (Hunter and Lesh) 9:18
Side three
No. Title Length
4. "Turn On Your Love Light" (Deadric Malone and Joseph Scott) 15:05
Side four
No. Title Length
5. "Death Don't Have No Mercy" (Reverend Gary Davis) 10:28[b]
6. "Feedback" (Tom Constanten, Garcia, Hart, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, and Weir) 7:49[c]
7. "And We Bid You Goodnight" (Traditional, arr. by Grateful Dead) 0:35[d]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Later remixed and released with entire concert on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Disc #2
  2. ^ Later remixed and released with entire concert on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Disc #9
  3. ^ Later remixed and released with entire concert on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Disc #10, and Fillmore West 1969
  4. ^ Later remixed and released with entire concert, in unedited form, on Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, Disc #10, and Fillmore West 1969

Personnel[edit]

Grateful Dead
Production
  • Produced by Grateful Dead, Bob Matthews, Betty Cantor
  • Executive engineer: Bob Matthews
  • Engineer: Betty Cantor
  • Consulting engineers: Owsley, Ron Wickersham
  • Sound: Bear
  • Art direction: Ed Thrasher
  • Cover art: R.D. Thomas

Sales charts and certification[edit]

Billboard chart

Year Chart Position
1970 Pop Albums 64[citation needed]

RIAA certification

Certification Date
Gold August 24, 2001[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Planer, Lindsay. Live/Dead at Allmusic
  2. ^ Kaye, Lenny (7 February 1970). "Records". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. (51): 44. Retrieved 21 May 2017. 
  3. ^ Grateful Dead album ratings at RobertChristgau.com
  4. ^ a b Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 7. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2. 
  5. ^ 500 Greatest Albums: Live/Dead at rollingstone.com
  6. ^ "List of music streaming offering Live/Dead". on Songwhip.com. 
  7. ^ Phil Lesh: Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh, Little, Brown and Company, 2005, pg. 142.
  8. ^ a b Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip. Jake Woodward, et al. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2003, pg. 104.
  9. ^ Classic Albums - The Grateful Dead: Anthem to Beauty (DVD). Rhino/Wea. 1999. 
  10. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-Live Dead". Retrieved February 28, 2009.